One of the powerful policy making structures in southwest Nigeria is the position of the Iyaloja. Iyaloja means the leader of the market women, and because of the word ‘Iya’, which means woman or mama or mother, it is natural that Iyaloja is a woman.
The Iyaloja position is not only political; the respect accorded the Iyaloja is the one accorded one’s biological mother. So, the Iyaloja has an enormous decision-making power both in political affairs (because of her closeness to, and recognition by traditional rulers and policy makers), and in family matters.
Going by the power and influence of the Iyaloja, it only makes sense that when it comes to mobilising women for maternal and newborn health advocacy, the Iyaloja is a very good choice to lead. This explains why the Lagos State Accountability Mechanism for Maternal and Newborn Health (LASAM) supported by MamaYe Nigeria, visited the Iyaloja of Lagos State, Chief Folasade Tinubu-Ojo, to stimulate and motivate her women on actions that will ensure the survival of pregnant women and newborns.
Meeting the Iyaloja
The LASAM Advocacy Sub-committee chairperson, Alhaja Salvador Sakeenah, told the Iyaloja that LASAM was formed in Lagos State with the support of MamaYe Nigeria, to monitor, review and act to ensure that pregnant women and newborns survive.
Sakeenah said that the visit of LASAM to the Iyaloja was to ensure that she (Iyaloja) played a leading role in the advocacy for improved quality of healthcare for pregnant women and newborns throughout the 57 LGAs and LCDAs of the State. She said the involvement of the Iyaloja was critical, as efforts of the State government in its health development campaign did not involve direct beneficiaries in the development and execution of advocacy messages.
Sakeenah finally listed the ASKs (demands) of LASAM to Iyajola, which hatched from Lagos State Health Budget and Maternal and Newborn Health scorecards. “We make the following ASKs to improve the survival of Pregnant Mothers and their Newborns in Lagos State,” she said.
- Women of reproductive age should access family planning service to space their children and prevent unwanted pregnancies
- All children 0-1 year should be fully immunized
- Pregnant mothers should register for ante-natal Care at the nearest health centre before 20 weeks of pregnancy
- Men and women (ages-18-65 years) should volunteer to donate blood
- Lagos State Market Association to support the movement on the survival of pregnant women and newborns in Lagos State”
MamaYe Nigeria Lagos State coordinator, Adenike Badiora, who was with LASAM at the visit, noted that these demands could be achieved through three key methods:
- Sensitisation at meetings
- Sponsoring of awareness jingles on radio and television
- Organising blood donation drives in conjunction with the Lagos State Blood Transfusion Service
She added that LASAM, with the support of MamaYe, was ready to give the Iyaloja the technical support to ensure that the message gets to the women. Sakeenah equally implored the Iyaloja to constitute a committee, which the LASAM advocacy committee could work with to achieve the demands.
The Iyaloja thanked the advocacy committee for the visit and stated her support for the process.
I am ready and available to work with you as we really need to support the project to prevent untimely deaths of our mothers and babies in Lagos State.
She also agreed to the need to sensitise the women, giving assurances of all the market women and men of Lagos State’s total support. She promised to do the needful by promptly constituting a committee that would be suitable and active in working with LASAM.
Capacity building and facilitation on maternal and newborn health improvement advocacy began in earnest with the delivery of an advocacy tool kit, consisting of the ASKs and a list of all health facilities across Lagos State and their addresses, to the Iyaloja.